A new crop of ultra-tall condominiums—many of them mixed-use incorporating retail, hotel and other elements—are sprouting up across Toronto’s downtown core. As they continue to redefine the city’s skyline, property owners and managers are slowly discovering the many challenges that arise when attempting to maintain these soaring communities.

Buildings such as Aura at Yonge and Gerrard (78 stories), 1 Bloor East (currently under construction and planned for 76 stories) and The One (which could top 80 stories upon completion) are the three most-discussed of Toronto’s new ultra-tall condo towers. If recent history offers any lessons, they will likely cost far more to maintain than more traditionally-sized condominiums.

From HVAC systems maintenance to materials costs to ongoing repairs, condominium residents could face hefty bills in the years ahead. If the recent glass problems that have plagued some Toronto condos continue to recur—including falling glass pains and deteriorating window seals—those bills could be particularly expensive to cover, possibly even resulting in costly special assessments being levied on residents.

But condominium corporations tasked with maintaining these mega high-rise skyscrapers should also keep another key consideration in mind: the heightened security costs that come with living in a tower taller than 50 stories.

In many condos, a corporation will enlist the services of a security firm such as ours and request round-the-clock concierge services. That will often require assigning a single guard to patrol key areas, monitor CCTV cameras and assist residents with tasks such as accepting deliveries in the building’s lobby. In larger buildings the recommendation is typically for two guards to be on duty at any given time—including a patrol guard. While it’s always optimal to have as many security staff on site as possible—the more eyes and ears, the better—this allocation of security resources is usually adequate for a condo building.

But this formula comes into question when dealing with huge towers. There are so many more challenges to manage with a building the size of Aura, for example, that addressing the sheer number of operational issues to secure a building of this size—and housing that many residents—increases virtually exponentially. So, where to begin?

It starts by assessing the building’s potential security vulnerabilities. That means considering everything from weak points where burglars or vandals could enter the property, to identifying key operational considerations that a security team would need to monitor to keep the property safe on an ongoing basis. Once those vulnerabilities are highlighted, any reputable security firm should be able to develop a comprehensive building security strategy that protects residents and helps contain costs related to ongoing building maintenance and protection.

From there, we always recommend assessing risk in four key areas:

Emergency preparedness and evacuation—Evacuating a building with thousands of residents and from dizzying heights is a remarkably complex task. One security guard sitting in a lobby—no matter how experienced and skilled she may be—will not be able to manage the task alone. From that perspective alone, it’s clear that ultra-high-rise properties should have multiple guards on duty at any given time.

Lobby access—Nowadays, condominium residents want security guards who are as focused on their comfort as their security. That means being available to welcome guests, accept packages, in some cases even providing hotel concierge-style services such as restaurant reservation booking. What can’t be forgotten is that a security guard’s primary role is exactly what their job title describes: security. The other duties are operational distractions, albeit ones in high demand. We recommend having multiple guards on duty in a lobby at any given time to ensure safety and security. Remember that with that many residents in a single condo, the number of visitors will be dramatically greater than in a smaller building, thereby increasing the demand on a single guard’s time and attention. For tall, luxury condos, one creative solution to ease the pressure on front-line security staff is to hire a dedicated concierge who only manages the peripheral, time-consuming tasks such as assisting residents with lifestyle-related requests and handling deliveries.

Facility security—Another important reason to adequately staff an ultra-tall condo is the fact that it likely contains multiple shared spaces such as party rooms, fitness facilities, a pool, movie theatre, and more. Every time you add elements such as these to a building, it increases the risk of abuse, damage or other unpleasant issues that security staff need to manage. A single guard will not be able to keep an eye on the front door, ensure that partiers are using the shared facilities appropriately, manage noise complaints, deal with a broken elevator and whatever other matters might arise during their day. Having multiple guards on duty will help ensure that recreational and leisure facilities are kept safe and secure at all times.

General maintenance challenges—That broken elevator that I mentioned in the previous point is only one of the many maintenance-related issues that can occupy the time of a condominium security team. When the building they’re monitoring stands at a height of 60 stories or more, there will inevitably be a more extensive bank of elevators to service, not to mention HVAC, plumbing, a larger garage area and other points around the property where maintenance problems can—and inevitably will—arise. It always makes sense to train security personnel in the basics of operating key equipment such as fire panels, but processes also need to be in place to help them manage maintenance-related emergencies. That’s only possible with adequate staffing to ensure that any on-duty security officer has the ability to inspect and report maintenance issues without delay.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security

This blog is part of our ongoing Wincon Team blogging initiative, designed to keep our employees up-to-date on company and security-industry news and developments

Ever wondered what makes a great company?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as we celebrate our 25th year in business. A great deal of our success can be attributed to strategic thinking, great systems and operations management, excellence in service delivery and, of course, all of you—as I mentioned in another article in this newsletter, people are our strength.

I’ve known that for a long time, of course, but reflecting on what our employees mean to Wincon Security prompted me to dig a little deeper. Specifically, what makes our security firm different from the scores of others currently operating across the Greater Toronto Area? Well, we certainly deliver leading-edge commercial property services that, in my view, outmatch those of our competitors.

As an integrated solutions provider, we also leverage technology better than anyone else in the business. Whether we’re analyzing the benefits of drone technology to patrol properties or helping clients select the biometric entry systems to suit their security needs, we’ve successfully evolved our company and adopted a technology-first approach, all while using human expertise and experience to keep our clients’ properties safe and secure. Few other firms have pivoted quite as effectively.

But there’s a competitive advantage that we have at Wincon Security that no other firm has: our employee culture.

For a company like ours, culture is everything. But what, exactly, is an employee culture? It’s probably best described as the attitude or the philosophical approach that helps carry the company forward. It’s compromised of the personality of every employee and incorporates everything from workplace policies to strategic business objectives, to name only a few key components. It’s the DNA of a business.

A recent Harvard Business Review article underscored the importance of culture, particularly as it pertains to maintaining strong employee engagement:

… disengagement is costly. In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time. Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications.

Our DNA is unique in that it’s not only characterized by some great people, but also incredible dedication and an extraordinary entrepreneurialism that runs throughout our organization. I’ve lost count of the number of times that a member of our team has approached me to share thoughts on how we might deliver our services more effectively, to highlight a challenge they’ve encountered or an opportunity we should seize upon to help drive revenue growth. That kind of communication is not only helpful, it’s incredibly important if we’re going to keep working towards building a bigger, better Wincon.

Another aspect of our culture that I find striking is the level of care that we have for each other. I would say that without a single exception, all of the employees that we now have in our organization are not here simply for a pay cheque. They want to make a difference, and they have the backs of their co-workers. That’s an impressive aspect of any culture, and one I’m proud to say is a defining feature of ours.

When we faced a challenge with a rogue operations manager in recent months, our team rallied together. We identified the problem together. We stayed strong during a lengthy investigative process together—and emerged even stronger as a group. Most importantly, we didn’t tolerate behaviour that wasn’t indicative of our cultural values.

That’s right, we share values as an organization. While we all have our own personal opinions and values, our culture is defined by characteristics such as hard work, a determination to help each other succeed and a commitment to doing right by our clients, in every engagement. We treat each other with empathy, respect and compassion. We help each other learn and grow as people and professionals; and we celebrate our successes as a team while learning from any mistakes that might occur along the way.

Not many companies can lay claim to such a strong culture—but we can. Our goal in the coming year is to find ways to strengthen those bonds through training, smart recruitment and sound management. It’s going to be a great year and I’m very proud that all of you are dedicated to helping fuel our success.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security

 

 

This blog is part of our ongoing Wincon Team blogging initiative, designed to keep our employees up-to-date on company and security-industry news and developments

As always, this New Year brought with it a sense of hope, prosperity and energy to propel our business forward in 2018. It also introduced The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act—better known as Bill 148.

The legislation transformed many of Ontario’s labour and employment laws, adding new penalties for employers that misclassify their employees as contractors, extended vacation time for some workers and made significant amendments to shift-scheduling rules, among many other changes. But for most of you, the most significant impact of Bill 148 is on your pay cheques.

Effective January 1, the legislation increased the province’s minimum wage to $14 per hour from $11.60. That hourly minimum will jump to $15 on January 1, 2019.

Now, you’ve probably read numerous headlines about the running battle between Premier Kathleen Wynne and various small business owners who cut shifts or slashed employee benefits in the wake of the minimum wage increase. In my view, the Premier’s attempt to portray small and medium-sized business owners as ‘bullies’ is both unfair and a deliberate distraction from the fact a great number of businesses took a direct hit to their bottom-line with the sharp increase in the minimum wage.

To be clear, I’m all for a strong living wage. All of you do great work—in fact, you’re the backbone of our company’s success!—and deserve every penny you earn. The greatest concern expressed by the entrepreneurial community has to do with the speed at which these changes were implemented. Many companies have, indeed, had to cut staff hours, lay off workers or make other operational or compensatory adjustments to stay afloat—that includes businesses of all sizes ranging from Tim Hortons franchisees to retail powerhouses such as Wal-Mart.

Our strategy was very different.

First, we decided that adequate staffing and coverage were far too important to compromise. So, too, was the strength of our company culture. We have a very positive, productive—and I would argue—innovative workplace, and we were determined not to upset that fine balance by thinning our employee ranks.

So, with that strategic decision in hand, we made our next move, which was to increase prices for our clients. This is never an easy task, nor is it a simple message to deliver to customers who need to carefully consider any increase to their business overhead costs. But here’s what I wanted you to know: our clients love the service we provide, and they love working with all of you. With the exception of only a limited few who simply couldn’t manage the extra costs, the organizations understood that a price increase was necessary as Bill 148 came into effect.

I want you to know that we’ve maintained a strong client base and our bottom-line is intact. You can rest assured that there won’t be any significant changes to staffing, other than our usual shifts in personnel as we address operational changes and requirements. In addition, we won’t be cutting hours. If anything, the new minimum wage has made us stronger by highlighting just how strong our client relationships are, as well as the extraordinary work each of you do to service our clients.

I’m all about finding silver linings in the face of adversity, and I think I just discovered another one as we stared down a seemingly insurmountable financial obstacle. As we continue to celebrate our 25th anniversary, you can even expect us to unveil new employee-training initiatives and strategies to further strengthen our already amazing culture.

With that in mind, my only request is that all of you keep up the great work, continue making our clients happy and never stop contributing your remarkable ideas and ingenuity as we work together to make 2018 our company’s most successful year ever!

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security

 

This blog is part of our ongoing Wincon Team blogging initiative, designed to keep our employees up-to-date on company news and developments

It’s amazing just how quickly 25 years can fly by.

Back in 1992, I founded Wincon Security with very little experience in the industry. What I did have was an inkling that commercial property security services could be delivered more effectively. So, I took what little knowledge I had and set out on an incredible journey. A quarter century later, we’ve grown to become one of the Greater Toronto Area’s most respected security firms. We may not be the biggest, but I certainly think we’re the best.

Sure, I’m a little biased, but I think you would all agree that we do a great job keeping our clients’ properties safe and secure—not to mention putting a smile on their faces.

This year we’ll be celebrating 25 years in business by continuing to recognize our long-time employees and top performers, announcing exciting new initiatives and continuing to expand our footprint across the security industry. Despite a few headwinds in the form of new government regulations and related pressures, I know we’ll continue to grow Wincon and further solidify our position as a leading security service provider. And we’re going to communicate all of these great new developments to all of you in a new employee newsletter—starting with the one you’re reading here.

As part of this process I’ve been thinking a great deal about the many contributing factors behind our success as a company. We’ve made some smart strategic decisions and have gradually pivoted to becoming an integrated solutions provider, leveraging cutting-edge technology wherever possible to find new ways to secure our clients’ properties. Those are all important decisions that have undoubtedly fueled our growth.

But after a great deal of thought and reflection, I came to realize how we do business was less important than why we do it. We’re here to help keep businesses and residents safe. And that’s only possible thanks to your hard work. The real secret to our success aren’t just systems and processes—it’s people.

That’s especially true in our industry. On a daily basis, our guards and support staff liaise with our clients, as well as directly with the general public in retail and residential environments, for example. We’re on the frontlines responding to security calls, assisting condominium and apartment residents, helping retailers minimize shrinkage, and providing strategic advice to our clients as they seek to mitigate risk and guard against any potential disasters that might affect their properties. And those are only some of the services we provide!

But doing that well takes dedication, determination to provide the highest levels of service, collaboration and innovation. That’s what each and everyone one of you brings to the table, often in your own unique ways, allowing our team to positively impact our clients’ businesses. Some of you have strengths in different areas, of course, but you all share a passion for what you do, while bringing the utmost professionalism to the job every day.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that you can’t build a successful company on a concept. Whether you’re making widgets or providing services to the public, your people are always going to be your greatest asset. I’ve always known this to be true, of course, but as we celebrate 25 years I’ve been reminded just how much all of you mean to our company.

Keep up the great work and let’s strive for another 25 outstanding years of service!

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security